Whilst there are several factors that can all affect video performance, the network you use is the foundation for high quality video. Data from live video is particularly sensitive to lag or latency, meaning the slightest interruption to the network will lead to sub-optimal video performance.
Free video services generally rely only on the public internet to carry your video data, with the call subject to all the fluctuations in traffic and speed of the public network. Professional cloud videoconferencing solutions look to address this issue by delivering video over a dedicated cloud network used only for video calls.
How good is your network coverage?
How can you tell if a video network will be high quality?
Whilst it may seem obvious that you just have to test a service by making some calls, judging potential performance should involve a bit more homework beyond signing up for a trial and making the odd call. When assessing any solution, there are two important factors to consider:
1. Which locations/countries will you be calling most often? For example, you might have offices or stakeholders in China you plan on having regular video meetings with (hint: in this case, not many providers can offer a reliable service both in and out China). Always ask a potential provider about the specific areas you know you will be calling frequently.
2. What is the network & coverage like? Not all networks are created equal. A cloud video network will normally rely on PoPs (“points of presence”), which act as access points at the different data centers across the network; think of these as the cellphone towers of the cloud videoconferencing world. The more PoPs, the better the overall network coverage will be. Check how many PoPs a service provider has and where they’re located.
In an increasingly global workspace, video is becoming more and more mainstream, but your service should connect you as reliably to freelancers on the other side of the world as easily as it connects you to you coworker downstairs. Always try and aim to pick a video service that can offer genuinely effective global network coverage.
Below are some quick tips for boosting your day to day perfromance whatever solution you're using:
- Bandwidth requirements: remember, as the size of your equipment and screens increase, so will your requirement for bandwidth. As a general rule, you should look for 1 - 1.5mbps for a video call to be of a minimum “business” standard (mobile and tablet devices need much less than this however)
- At the office: check your network’s current capacity and how much of that capacity is available. If you’re close to the limit with your current tools, then adding a video service might need an upgrade to your network speed
- At home: home wifi networks can be problematic as the speed can vary depending on a number of factors. Using a wired (ethernet) connection for your computer when making video calls should give a fast, stable connection for better quality calls for you and the other participants
- On the go: with a strong 4G connection, professional standard video calls and meetings on the go are a reality. But slow wifi at your hotel or at the airport coffeeshop can be your downfall. A service should allow the user to make basic adjustments to their bandwidth settings (something along the lines of “high”, “medium”, and “low”), both when calling through a web browser or a dedicated app. When connecting to a slow network, changing from a higher setting to a lower setting will give a more stable connection. It’s also good to check what the default setting is, since the majority of the time a higher setting provide the best experience
- Upgrading your equipment: Beyond your network there a number of factors than can effect the quality and experience of a video call. In a future blog post we shall discuss some of these in more detail, but the quality of your camera and microphone can make a big difference. If you plan on using video a lot, it's always recommended to upgrade at least your camera, but ideally your microphone too